Kelly saddened, disappointed

Updated: September 2, 2009, 8:24 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Paul Kelly remains saddened and somewhat angry three days after his stunning dismissal as head of the NHL Players' Association.

"I'd say that unless someone has gone through this type of experience, it's difficult for people to fathom the range of emotions, the stress that you feel," Kelly said Wednesday during an interview with ESPN.com.

"It's been an excruciating past three days. I can't say that I've fully come to grips with all of my emotions. I'm still feeling a tremendous degree of sadness and disappointment and still an element of shock.

"I think it's going to take more time for some of those feelings to dissipate. There's a tinge of anger in there as well. But you know what, I'm a big boy and I'll go forward and deal with it as best as I know how."

Paul Kelly
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesThe NHLPA announced Monday that its executive board had voted to remove executive director Paul Kelly. He held the job for less than two years.

The union had announced Monday at its annual meeting that its executive board, which is made up of one player from each of the 30 teams, had voted "overwhelmingly" to remove Kelly, who held the job for less than two years.

NHLPA interim ombudsman Buzz Hargrove delivered a report to the executive board Sunday night expressing his concerns about Kelly's leadership.

"There was no one issue that you could point to," Hargrove told ESPN.com. "It was a combination of issues that have developed over a 21-month period that led the board to the conclusion that they just did not have the trust and confidence in Paul's leadership going ahead."

It is believed Kelly's transgressions include his treatment of staff members in Toronto, his perceived closeness to the media and a feeling that he was too friendly with the league and its owners. In addition, Kelly was criticized for not developing relationships with the players.

Kelly disagreed with that assessment, saying he regularly met with players, attended games and visited practice facilities.

"I used to send written notes and text messages to players on a daily basis," Kelly said. "I used to watch games in the evening and the following morning if a guy had done something terrific or a guy had suffered an injury, I would almost always drop a note to that guy. I had a steady and extensive level of contact with players. I really don't accept for a minute the suggestion that I didn't do enough to connect with my players."

Hargrove's report wasn't the only information player reps were presented Sunday night. Player reps Matt Stajan (Maple Leafs), Mike Komisarek (Maple Leafs), Brad Boyes (Blues) and Andrew Ference (Bruins) were appointed back in Las Vegas in June, along with a human resources consultant, to do a review on the union's operations, and all four players were involved in interviewing office staff. Their findings were also shared.

NHLPA executive Ian Penny was named interim leader. The union said it would immediately assemble a committee to find a replacement.

Pat Flatley, the union's assistant director of player affairs, and Bob Lindquist, an accounting consultant who was considered by some to be the leading financial mind at the union, also resigned from their posts in the wake of Kelly's firing.

Flatley, who had been working with the NHL until a year ago, was director of player affairs as Glenn Healy's right-hand man. Lindquist was hired by the players' association in February 2008.

Kelly was hired in October 2007 following the firing of Ted Saskin, who was alleged to have ordered the spying of NHLPA player e-mail in the midst of a membership uprising against his leadership.

Before joining the NHLPA, Kelly was a partner at Kelly, Libby & Hoopes, a Boston law firm that specializes in internal investigations and complex civil and administrative litigation. He previously served as an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts, and was involved in the investigation of former NHLPA leader Alan Eagleson.

Information from ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun and The Associated Press was used in this report.

ALSO SEE